The Fiber Arts Festival was held this past weekend at the Townsend Visitor Center amid beautiful spring weather. This is one of the smaller Townsend, TN festivals, but the attendees make up for the smaller numbers with enthusiasm and there is nothing like parking only 50 feet away from activities for guests at our Smoky Mountain Lodging!
While the Visitor Center grounds held exhibits, demonstrations, a few vendors, sheep shearing and Border collie sheep-herding, the Townsend Elementary School held a marketplace of vendors selling their wares. Fish Lady and Friends Gallery also had exhibits and a Friday evening reception.
The Border collie sheep-herding was amazing. This is not your neighborhood dog chasing a flock of geese! While the handler gave commands by blowing on a whistle, man’s best friend did exactly what his owner wanted him to do quietly and swiftly. That pooch had those sheep weaving around posts, hither and yon, and right into the pen. We were told that each dog reacts to the sound of his owner/handler blowing on their whistle not necessarily to someone else, like their spouse blowing on their whistle to their dog.
As much as I enjoyed the Border collie’s working, I have to say the sheep shearing was my favorite. You just have to wonder if that sheep felt like I do getting a pedicure cause it kind of just laid back like a blob with it’s eyes shut most of the time. You come at most four legged creatures with a buzzing razor and it is not going to be a pretty sight so either Dean Fritz of Murfreesboro, TN really is at the top of his game or sheep really like “getting a load off their backs”!
You could watch folks spinning the wool into yarn, weaving, and all manner of “fiber” crafts. Sue Mason of Maryville was kind enough to give me written directions for getting the fleece, wool shorn from the sheep, to the ball of yarn stage. It’s a time consuming process and gives me a new respect for woolen garments whether they be knitted, crochet or woven. Blessings, mizkathleen@ Gracehill
In 2008, shortly after the economy tanked, again, I was trying to think of an activity I could do with my nephew, age five, that was on the cheap. Decided to take him to Sam Houston Schoolhouse and Museum. While there, I found an out of print copy of the Blount County Historic Tour Guide that became our map on a three-year long odyssey. It shows 30+ stops depicting the history of Blount County. I have lived here for 25 years and had only been to four places on the list. Kane had been to the Little River Railroad Museum in Townsend with me two years earlier.
Sometimes it was more the journey than the destination. I used the word “map” loosely. The brochure designer had his heart in the right spot, but the dots showing the buildings could be off by a block or two or …. One day, with no address other than Big Springs Road, we tried to find the “Old Stone House”, the oldest house in the county, built in the late 1700’s. Never did locate it that day. Called the Visitor Center. They gave me some tips. Didn’t work out on the second try. Called the Historical Society. He made a call, and gave me some pointers. Nope. When we spent a morning at the Thompson Brown House getting a behind-the-scenes tour by a wonderfully accommodating woman, she gave me directions. She did a lot of hand waving to no effect. I am actually rather good at following a map, so after stopping at a gas station for further advice, and still coming up short, I did a U turn in the middle of the road and hopped out to talk to a Department of Transportation worker cutting grass on the right of way. He was clueless until I said this home had been in three states and a territory, North Carolina, the Lost State of Franklin, territory South of the River Ohio and our own lovely State of Tennessee. Bingo! “EVERYONE knows where THAT place is!” My suggestion is, when we pull out of the recession, maybe by 2020, the county pops for a marker.
I took Kane’s picture at each place but one. The Mead Haven/Cox House in Friendsville, had three very big dogs in the yard which was posted with some kind of electric doggie fence sign. I would open the car door, the dogs would stand up. I’d shut the car door, they sat down. Open the car door; put foot on ground, they advanced 50 feet. “Kane buddy,” I said, “time for your photo.” He shook his head. His momma didn’t raise no dummy. I bought a big piece of black foam core board and glued on the brochure and all our photos. Twenty-nine photos of Kane, and one of three very big dogs. We took the last tour today, Alcoa Aluminum Plant and the fountain they built for their workers in Springbrook Park. Actually talked about and saw the whole concept of a planned unit development. Many of the four-room houses are still standing with the original slate roofs from 80 years ago.
I am a list person, and while it was wonderful to finish our journey before Kane enters college and I start collecting Medicare, it’s kind of sad. Where do we go from here? History tour of Knoxville? Washington D.C.? The pyramids? Scratch the pyramids. We came back to our Smoky Mountain Bed and Breakfast and practiced making potato pancakes with stir fried apples. We listened to the news about Egypt and Libya while he grated potatoes and stirred the apples in the pan. For eight years old, he has an amazing grasp of world events and a memory like a steel trap. Wonder who learned more? Maybe the question should be, who will remember more! mizkathleen@ GracehillRead More
Before Mom and I moved to Tennessee 25 years ago, we left Illinois in a motor home with a motorcycle and scooter hanging off the front and back. My goal was to see every national park in the United States, and Canada from Victoria to St. John’s, Newfoundland. We were able to do that, over the course of 17 months, and even better, was the decision to settle in Townsend, TN just outside the Cades Cove Loop Road entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Of all the beautiful places on the North American continent, there is nowhere I would rather live.
I have been in the tourist/hospitality industry ever since, with the last 10 years as the owner/operator of Gracehill Bed and Breakfast. During that time, I have sent and given directions to thousands of people looking for the Cove. Furthermore, if you only have two nights, one full day in the Smokies, I say a drive around Cades Cove with a little hiking on its many trails, needs to be at the top of the list.
The Great Smokies is the most visited National Park in the U.S. and Cades Cove the most visited “attraction” in it. It is a pioneer settlement from the late 1800’s, early 1900’s, in a bowl depression surrounded by lofty mountains. (Think spacious skies and purple mountain majesties…) It’s filled with log cabins, churches, cemeteries, a gristmill and my favorite, the barns.
It helps to know some things about the Cove. It features a newly paved 11-mile, single lane, one-way loop road. It opens at sunrise, closes at dark, and those are the two times you will see the most wildlife. If you are the type to take home a pic of every deer, pull over so the car behind you can pass. It is closed to vehicular traffic on Saturday and Wednesday mornings till 10am, May through September, for bicycle and foot traffic. You can rent bikes at the entrance or bring your own. In the winter or early spring, with no stops, the drive can take an hour and 15 minutes. Weekends in the summer plan on a couple of hours. In October, arrive very early and preferably during the week. I’ll pack you a picnic breakfast to go. Bring your camera and tripod for the mist rising off the water shots. A Saturday afternoon in October, could take four hours. Make sure you have enough gas. The last gas station at the Townsend entrance is the Marathon at the KOA Campground. If you make it out of the Cove on fumes, you can just about coast the nine miles back into Townsend. The only tricky spot is the stop sign at the “Wye.” I tried coasting once. Was probably a little irritating to the driver behind me, but what the heck, I was in pursuit of empirical knowledge!
There are two gravel roads that bisect the Cove going in both directions. If you start going through sugar withdrawal, hang a left on Sparks or Hyatt Lane and it will shorten the trip. A little more than half way around, by the Cable Mill, is a visitor center and restroom facilities. The last 1/3 of the drive is more heavily wooded, but my favorite. Everything is closer to the road and most of the barns are there.
Books have been written about Cades Cove and the history of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, many of them here on the library table. You can Google Cades Cove and come up with 100s of articles from many different perspectives. The Park puts out a good brochure with numbered stops. You can pick it up at the entrance for $1, or I have multiple copies here, if you want to read it before you go. My intent was to write an article on the Cades Cove Preservation Association, with a little history of the Cove first. Hmmm. Next installment another day. Blessings, mizkathleen@ GracehillRead More
For the fourth year in a row, the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center had a Blue Ribbon Country Fair on the same weekend as Old Timers Day in Cades Cove, the Nawger Nob Arts and Crafts Show, and the Fall Festival at the Townsend Visitor Center. Saying it is an action packed weekend is an understatement! Just about everyone in our small town is volunteering (or attending) somewhere, and it is tough choosing when they are on both Friends of the Library (food booth at the Fall Festival), Hearts and Hands Scholarship Fund, (Fall Festival), or the Guild at the Heritage Center (Country Fair) etc. etc.
Since September 1st, I have been steady every day with guests; I emptied out today for a few days, in time to get my act together for OCTOBER. The leaves are still green, but today we got some much needed rain and the temps dropped dramatically. I am sitting here with the doors open listening to the rain considering putting on a pair of socks! Life is good. The fall display is up and I have been blessed with business and blue ribbons.
Last year in preparation for the Fair, I worked on my blueberry almond pound cake for the entire year. Must have made it 20 times, 20 different ways. Won 3rd place. This year I waited till three days before the Fair, and started searching on the web for a perfect perfectly plain pound cake. Eccch! Wednesday morning, I made Paula Deen’s and served it to guests. Wednesday night, I made an orange cream cheese pound cake from the Joy of Baking, but was the only one still up to taste it warm out of the oven. Thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Six hours later I was up and made another one for breakfast, reportedly Elvis Presley’s favorite from the Epicurious.com website. I tasted it warm and thought it was the perfect plain pound cake. Had my guests taste all three and it was evenly divided between Elvis’s and the orange. (Dear Paula, you can’t win them all…) On my way into town, I had the neighbors try them and all the folks at the Sunshine Chiropractic office. At room temp, hands down, the orange cream cheese won the vote. It’s a good thing I ran it by a few people because I probably would have gone with Elvis’s, thinking plain would be better this time around. What makes his recipe unusual is it contains whip cream and you put it in a cold oven, then turn it on!
At any rate, I made another orange pound cake Friday morning for the Fair. We had a funeral Saturday morning, and the bake sale at the Fall Festival, so four pound cakes went the way of the gooney bird! We won win a blue ribbon, thank you, Joy of Baking. Don’t know if they are related to Joy of Cooking or not; that has always been my recipe bible. Click here for the link to the recipe. We also won a blue ribbon for my mom’s apricot bread. Again I made three loaves in two days, changing the recipe each time while Mom and I bickered back and forth. Her pumpkin pie recipe got a 2nd place finish. I am not much for pumpkin pie, but after winning a ribbon guess we better make it this year at Thanksgiving! I did mess around with that recipe also, tried to attach some cut out pastry leaves to the sides of the crust and added pecans to the bottom of the crust. The leaves sank and the pecans floated to the surface! Blessings, mizkathleen @ Gracehill Bed and BreakfastRead More
When is food less about what we put in our mouths and more about a work of art? In a third world country there is no doubt about the answer, but here in the States, for some people, the answer is harder to discern. It’s not only how we present our food, but increasingly, where we buy it and where they bought it! (Think egg recall…) My mom, one of the world’s best cooks, can take a pot off the stove and plunk it on the table. God bless her, she did it for three meals a day for 25 years, and I am proof that we never went hungry. I, on the other hand, think first about what flowers I can pick from the garden, what china they go with, then what food would look good on that china! I’m glad I have the luxury of being able to think that way.
As the world becomes more and more aware of the origins of our food, I’m happy to say at age 11, Jake Molina, the nephew of my friend and Gracehill Wizard Extraordinaire, Julie, has started raising chickens. We are the grateful recipients of the product thereof! Jake’s mom Dawn says, “I don’t know if ours could be called free range chickens because they are not always free to range. We have lots of coyotes and neighborhood dogs that want to eat them. They have their big yard to roam and scratch in, but we only let them range when we are outside. They definitely could be called cage free though!” Beside the Americaunas, Jake also has Buff Orpington, Rhode Island Reds, Silver Laced Wyandottes and Golden Comets. They hope to get some Black Copper Marans that are prized by French chefs. Ooh la la! (Americanized version. My sister the French major says they would say, Oh la la la!)
In little ways, with our herb garden, veggies, and fruit we pick locally, we are trying to bring fresher food to the table. You all know my love affair with blueberries. I’m lucky the three couples who checked in a few days ago for four nights liked them also. I made a new recipe, Blueberry Cream Cheese French Toast in a 9X13 pan which I posted on my recipe page with a photo. This year we’ve put about a 100# in the freezer, but will continue using fresh for another couple of weeks. In the past two weeks, my five attempts to make a decent blueberry cobbler have been dismal. It’s nice that I have wonderful friends, who tell me otherwise, but alas, they are lying through their teeth, and I am moving on to try other things… blessings, mizkathleen@ Gracehill Bed and BreakfastRead More
It’s been a heck of a year; the worst winter we have experienced since building Gracehill and the hottest, driest summer on record since… who knows, it keeps going further back with each week that passes. Our elevation gives us a little relief with temps 5 to 10 degrees cooler than what is happening in Townsend, Gatlinburg, or Knoxville plus the usual breezes. The dry weather has also made the zinnias look especially beautiful because we aren’t fighting powdery mildew this year, but the Peegee hydrangea bushes are not as lush as in years past, and we lost the marigolds. It’s a trade off. I’d rather fight the mildew than haul buckets of water. We should have hauled more often for the marigolds…
I bought a Flip Video Camera, and it took three months to get it out of the box. You know me with anything electronic. Click on the link for a video taken in the backyard of the dozens of butterflies that are hanging around. Don’t be concerned that I have developed palsy; I just need to get the hang of this moving camera business!
Since the main topic here is the weather, I’ve come up with a lovely excuse for not blogging more frequently this year. We were struck by lightning on Friday of Memorial Day weekend. It was a direct hit, and as bad as it was with all our electronic low voltage systems, we are extremely grateful the house didn’t catch on fire. Guests were coming up the hill 20 minutes after the fire trucks rolled down. Our guests were amazing, and I couldn’t have asked for a nicer bunch of people. That weekend TV’s were out and they had to use my laptop with the Verizon air card to check emails, but other than that, guest services were not really affected. It has taken me three months to get everything else replaced like the intercom, doorbells, phones, TV’s, alarm system, satellites, my computer, electronics for our water system, motors on a couple of the whirlpool tubs, etc…
I have been a little more regular with my posts on Twitter (theinnkeeper) or Facebook (Gracehill Bed and Breakfast) and our bi-monthly newsletter. You can sign up for any of these on the home page of our website. Blessings, mizkathleen@ Gracehill Bed and BreakfastRead More
The 29thannual Gatlinburg Scottish Festival is a lot more than just a 2-½ day runner up to the week long Grandfather Mountain Highland Games held July 8-11, on Grandfather Mountain near Linville, NC.
The Gatlinburg, Tennessee games, held May 14-16, 2010 at Mills Park, 1230 E. Parkway, on the northeast side of Gatlinburg, spotlights Celtic Scottish history, culture, and events. My family has attended a few times in the past five years, and one of my previous East Tennessee Smoky Mountains Bed and Breakfast guests, Roger Underwood, plays in the Knoxville Pipes and Drums which just appeared in the Dollywood International Parade. He generously provided the photos for this blog.
The bag pipers lead off the festivities at 6 p.m., on Friday, May 14th, with a parade down the Parkway in downtown Gatlinburg. If you are a Scot, you may walk behind or follow in a trolley. A gala reception follows at the Quality Inn Creekside.
For a small admission, events start at 8:30 a.m. at Mills Park both Saturday and Sunday. Highlights for my family have always been the Border Collie demonstrations, the Celtic rock bands, and the competitive sporting events. But, there are so many things going on, you can pick and choose. Visit with over 60 heritage and clan societies to assist in exploring your heritage. Be sure to stay for the Ceilidh Under the Stars, which starts at 7:30 p.m.
Center stage is a plethora of bagpipe bands. Click here for a U-Tube video of the Knoxville Pipe and Drum Band. Under tents and on stages, you will find Celtic punk bands, balladeers on guitars, and highland dancing. Sheep dog trials will be conducted twice daily. Men, women, and kids compete in both amateur and pro competitions for several stone putting games: braemar stone, open stone, heavy hammer, turning the caber, tossing the haggis, sheaf, WFH and heavy and light WFD. Vendors offer food, jewelry, books, music, and Scottish clothing. Visit www.gsfg.orgfor more information or call (865) 368-2543. Dress for the weather, no pets allowed, and consider staying at one of the many bed and breakfasts in the area! mizkathleen@ Gracehill Bed and Breakfast.